Today in Italian, my professor said something that struck a chord with me. She was talking about how the guys in the lesson are more awkward when they need to speak in front of the class than the girls because “women in today’s society are raised to get used to being on display and being looked at.” Therefore, girls feel more used to a position that asks them to be in the spotlight. Read: more used to. Not more comfortable with.
I can already hear the entire feminist population screaming “YOU DON’T HAVE TO CONFORM TO THAT!” and disagreeing with my professor’s statement adamantly, pointing out that there are more women graduating from college than men, that business women are more prominent now than they ever have been, and that this is the 21st century so this perception should be completely out of sight and mind.
But let’s not pretend like it’s not a completely accurate statement.
We’re in the age of promiscuity! Generation Y, a.k.a. us, is the generation that refuses to grow up. More than ever before, being young is the only thing that’s cool. Ambitions? We like those, but a job and a success story is for later; we’re here to serve the Now. And don’t even get us started on marriage and commitment. We drink and we feel bad ass because we’re underage or we’re brand new at being 21, we smoke because we don’t care about our lungs, or anything, really, and we just do random stupid things because, screw it, we’re young! And so we have built up this mindset that being young and wild is this beautiful spectacle, something marvelous to look at.
We are left with the perception that being showy is better than being shy. Example: today is Halloween. What costumes do I already see on campus? Sexy devil, sexy bunny, sexy mouse, sexy Rosie the Riveter (kind of an ironic oxymoron, right?). I even saw online that there exists a sexy corn costume.
Is this real? A woman who wants to do something as stupid as dress up as corn, maybe as a joke, has to do it in a sexy way? How do you even make corn sexy?
I was talking to some of my guy friends here and they said I should be “slutty Annie with daddy issues.” Like Annie, the little 12 year old orphan girl from the Broadway musical. And they’re actually stuck on this notion that they are going to make me slutty, like it’s an accomplishment.
Their costumes, however, will consist of actual clothing, that covers their bodies, and that’s socially accepted.
And extreme cases like college Halloween parties aren’t the only example. Girls and women are made to take looks and appearances seriously when they’re younger, too.
Take prom! If she’s lucky, a high school girl will find a dress that’s discounted to $350 dollars, after which she’ll have to find matching shoes that she can barely walk in but that she buys anyway because “they make her legs look great,” and then she’ll stress for a month or two about finding a date because going alone to prom is embarrassing. Why?
Because she won’t have anyone to show off for.
How about weddings? They’re great – seriously, I absolutely love them, I think they’re so beautiful – but they also have this element of giving a woman away, like she’s a pretty shirt or something. The bride is donned in a dress that she’ll be paying interest on in the future for a partner that already loves her for who she is and not what she wears. It’s a show, putting the woman on display simply to let everyone know that she is not going to keep her last name.
It’s not a surprise that we deal with so many insecure young women – being scrutinized all the time isn’t exactly a recipe for confidence. Someone is always able to rip you down because of it. Not only that, but the technology that we have today broadcasts ideals to every woman on the planet. We are bombarded with images like these:
And naturally react to them like this:
Even sadder is the way that the model industry presents models as complete airheads and simply treats them according to their body shape. Modeling is a job – it requires as much self-control and discipline as bodybuilding, and yet bodybuilding is not looked down upon by feminists and jealous females alike, because it is dominated by a male mindset. Models have to work to get where they are; however, whenever they are displayed to the public, part of their job is to make what they do look effortless, like everyone should be like them, or should want to be like them.
SO! What’s the point of this rant?
I’m not here to say that ladies shouldn’t conform to society’s standards because that’s cliche. A woman can do whatever she wants, because, yes, this is the 21st century. But I know personally the pressures of having to look good or conform to a brand, and remember that kind of pressure in high school, which, when combined with the fact that you’re still trying to figure yourself out, can get to be overwhelming. There’s no reason that a woman should have to feel insecure simply because she’s not wearing make up or her body fat level isn’t well below the healthy standard.
I guess what I am trying to say is that my Italian teacher was right – women are set up to be looked at. It’s been that way since the dawn of civilized society; it hasn’t really changed since then. The point of this post is to realize that fact, because once we do, we can combat it. Instead of working out to have a better body we can show off to boys, we should get healthy for our own benefits. Instead of stressing out over not having a date to display us on the stage during promenade, we should strut across it like no one is watching. And, in the spirit of Halloween, we should be comfortable in a costume that makes us feel confident and hilarious, not cold due to lack of clothing.
Girls are sexy when they’re themselves. Trust me – this is coming from a girl who is being a Fork in the Road for her first college Halloween outings.
Stay classy, stay confident, be you.